Last weekend, Cooperstown saw the induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame of three worthy players (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas) and perhaps the three most successful managers of the last quarter century (Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre). In the last 15 years, only 2 third basemen have been voted into the Hall – Wade Boggs and Ron Santo. And unless the Veterans pick someone from this list below, we won’t see another 3rd baseman selected until 2018 when Chipper Jones is elected.
Here are my top 10 Hall of Fame eligible third basemen who are not in the Hall.
10. Ron Cey
The Penguin was part of the Dodger’s great infield of the 1970s – joining Garvey, Lopes and Russell. A 6-time All Star, Cey hit over 300 home runs, had 1,000 RBIs and was co-MVP of the 1981 World Series.
9. Robin Ventura
The Mets infield of the late 1990s didn’t stay together as long as the Dodger infield of the 1970s, but for a year or two, it might have been the best fielding infield of all time. Ventura won 6 Gold Gloves (5 with the White Sox) and was also a solid hitter, finishing his career with 294 home runs and 8 seasons with at least 90 RBIs. He’ll always be remembered by Met fans for his post-season walk-off Grand Slam single in the 15th inning against the Braves
8. Buddy Bell
A terrific fielder and solid hitter for the Indians and Rangers, Bell was a 5-time All Star and winner of 6 Gold Glove awards. He finished his career with over 2500 hits and 200 home runs.
7. Sal Bando
The captain of the great mustachioed Oakland teams of the 1970, Bando was a clutch hitter, a 4-time All Star and twice finished in the top 3 of the A.L. MVP voting. He was the 2nd American league third baseman, after Brooks Robinson, to hit 200 home runs.
6. Al Rosen
If he had a longer career, Rosen would have been a certain Hall of Famer but he spent 4 years in the Navy during World War II. Between 1952 and 1955, the Hebrew Hammer was the best third baseman in the game, twice leading the league in home runs and RBIS. In 1953, he won the MVP with 45 homeruns, 145 RBIS, and with a batting average of .336, he missed out on the Triple Crown by a percentage point.
5. Bob Elliott
A 7-time All Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Braves, Elliott won the National League MVP in 1947 and helped the Braves win the Pennant the following year.
4. Darrell EvansBill James argues that Evans is the most underrated player in baseball history. He was the national league’s version of Graig Nettles – low batting average, good power, excellent fielder. After 15 years with the Braves and Giants in the National League, Evans joined the Tigers and became the oldest player to lead the league in home runs (40 in 1985) and the first player to hit 40 home runs in both leagues. For many years, before the power/steroid explosion cheapened home runs, Evans held a distinction of being one of only 2 players with 400 home runs who were ignored by Cooperstown. (Dave Kingman was the other).
3. Stan Hack
Stan Hack was a criminally underrated third baseman for the Cubs. Hack played in the 1930s and 40s and wasn’t a power hitter, like Santo. He was a lead-off hitter and 5-time all-star who batted .301 for his career and had 7 seasons of 100 runs scored. He also batted .348 in four World Series. Yes, that’s right. The Cubs used to play in the World Series.
2. Graig Nettles
A terrific fielder, Nettles probably deserved to win more than 2 Gold Glove but he played at the same time as Brooks Robinson at the beginning of his career, and then Buddy Bell. He’s deservedly remembered for his fielding heroics in the 1978 World Series and when he left the Yankees for the Padres in 1984, he had more career home runs than any American League third baseman.
1. Ken Boyer
Cardinal third baseman was an 11-time All Star game selection and a 5-time gold glove winner who hit 282 home runs batted .287 and won the National League MVP in 1964.
Honorable Mention: Garry Gaetti, Ken Keltner, Bill Madlock, Tim Wallach, Matt Williams.